Can Cats Swim

Can Cats Swim? …And Why Do Cats Hate Water?

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Jacquelyn Pica

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Jacquelyn Pica

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Quick Answer: Yes, they CAN swim, but rarely do they do it for pleasure. Only out of necessity will you see a cat swimming.

Everyone knows cats hate water. It’s one of the undeniable facts about felines that even non-cat owners know about.

Luckily cats don’t need us to give them a bath often, because the few times I’ve had to give my cat a quick bath it was pretty difficult. Think desperate meowing, water and cat hair everywhere and needing two people just to hold him inside the bathtub.

Although my cat turns into a terrified mess the second he touches water, some cats actually enjoy it. For the ones that still don’t like it, there are a few reasons.

cat treading water

Why Do Cats Hate Water?

Cats are creatures of habit. If your cat has never been exposed to water and suddenly you’re giving him a bath, you won’t have a happy pet on your hands.

Cat owners will be happy to hear that it isn’t necessary to bathe a cat. They’re perfectly capable of keeping themselves clean. However, there are times when your cat might get something on their coat or get dirty from being outside and they’ll need a bath, or at least a rinse.

As mentioned above, it’s simply not in a cat’s DNA to be okay with baths or being drenched in water. That said, there are a few other reasons why cats dislike water so much.

You’re Creating More “Work” for Your Cat

Cats don’t like any foreign smells on their fur because they know they’ll have to clean it off themselves later. When you use a pet shampoo, or even wet their fur too much with water, a cat knows they’ll have to clean it off, even if they’re technically clean.

When I bathe my cat it’s usually to get something off of his fur, but I don’t use any pet shampoo. All I do is get his fur wet and wipe him off. Even just with wet fur, he sits and cleans himself after his “bath.”

To your cat, you’re making him work harder later by giving him a bath even though it might be necessary.

It’s an Unfamiliar Experience

If your cat wasn’t bathed as a kitten, or hasn’t experienced being in water throughout their life, they’re going to be scared the first time you give them a bath.

In general, cats aren’t very good at adapting to new situations or environments. Especially if the new situation involves getting soaking wet and foreign smells, like pet shampoo.

The best thing to do is to introduce you cat to water at a young age. Even just putting them in your shower and wiping them down with a wet towel is a good start. Most cats are so scared of water simply because it’s a new experience, and they’re reacting out of fear.

They Don’t Like Their Undercoat to Get Wet

Domestic cats have an undercoat that isn’t very good at repelling water. This undercoat is what keeps them insulated and warm during the winter, or even if it’s cold inside your home.

When you give your cat a bath, the water soaks down through their undercoat. This is pretty uncomfortable for your feline. It’s comparable to the feeling of being wrapped in a wet blanket. Combine that with the fear of being held down for a bath, and it’s not too hard to see why cats have an aversion to water.

That being said, there are actually cats that like water.

Swimming Cat

Can Cats Swim?

It might seem a bit contradictory seeing as the majority of cats out there hate water, but yes, cats can swim.

Whether or not they’re a good swimmer depends on their life experiences and how much exposure they’ve had with water. As I mentioned above, cats don’t have an evolutionary need to swim. But, that doesn’t mean they can’t.

Some Cats Love to Swim

The Turkish Van is a rare breed of cat that actually loves to swim. Originating from Turkey, these cats have top-heavy bodies that are ideal for swimming.

Big cats also love to swim. Tigers, lions and jaguars are known to take a dip to cool off in sweltering temperatures. For them, it’s a necessary means of survival.

Other domesticated cats can also love water — you’ve probably seen tons of cute videos with cats swimming around pools. But, it is more common for cats to be scared of water, meaning they aren’t very strong swimmers.

Teach Your Cat to Swim

If you live in a house with a pool, or want to get your cat to be more active, it’s recommended to start small and teach your cat to swim. Hold your cat close to your body and walk around the pool. I know, they might be terrified, but it’s important to calm your cat once they’re in the pool.

When your cat isn’t too anxious or panicked, slowly loosen your grip and their swimming instincts should kick in. Don’t completely let go of your cat — just enough so they start to paddle with their paws.

It’s important to teach your cat how to swim and where to get out of the pool if they’re going to be outside without supervision, since not all cats are naturally strong swimmers.

Cats are Fascinated by Water

Cats might not like taking baths or being subjected to be in water, but they do have an odd, unexplainable fascination with it.

You might have seen your cat staring at your shower when it’s on, pawing at water coming out of the faucet or trying to stick their paws in your water glass.

As smart as cats are, they’re pretty fascinated by the liquidity and feel of water. This is more reason to believe they aren’t terrified of all water — it’s mostly when you’re giving them a forced bath, or it’s something they’re unfamiliar with.

Cats and water are yet again another mysterious combination. Some love it, some hate it, others don’t care either way. What’s important for cat owners is to introduce the cat to water at a young age, so they don’t have any reason to fear it.

Underwater cat

To Sum Up

It’s not in a cat’s blood to handle water. Cat’s ancestors lived in dry environments where they didn’t have to adapt to water. It’s been genetically passed down that swimming and dealing with water isn’t a necessary survival skill. Some felines do swim, if necessary, and even fewer actually enjoy the experience.

Does your cat love water? Send us pictures or videos and we’ll share on our social media!

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